Trump’s ‘Peace’ Price Hike Angers South Korea While North Korea Calls Meetings with US ‘Useless’

Hope for a third summit level talks between the US and North Korea for the Korean Peninsula peace is bleak while Pyongyang announces firmly that it is “not interested” in having “useless” meetings with the US. This was in reply to US President Donald Trump, who had tweeted “See you soon!” to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as the US announced it would postpone joint military exercises with South Korea that Pyongyang has been opposing.

The North Korean announcement of its disinterest in talks with the US has come amid the US being firm on 400 percent hike for the year 2020 of the cost sharing with South Korea for maintaining US troops on the Korean Peninsula. The negotiations between the US and South Korea in sharing the cost for maintaining US troops on the Korean Peninsula ended abruptly on November 19.

The US demand for new price tag of estimated $4.7 billion, which Seoul feels unrealistic, has angered South Korea. The relations between Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have so far been cordial and warm. Relations have also improved between Kim and Moon ever since Trump has initiated peace efforts with Kim. Trump now, for maintaining US troops on the Korean Peninsula, has raised the asking price from approximately $1 billion to $5 billion before being convinced by officials at the State Department and Pentagon to winnow that down to the $4.7 billion, which Seoul has been eventually asked to pay.

Now there are signs that relations among the US, South Korea and North Korea are not likely to be what they used to be. Trump, who is embroiled in his impeachment debates and at the same time busy with 2020 presidential campaign for re-election, seems to be not in a mood to relent on his new price demand.

Jeong Eun-bo, South Korea’s chief negotiator, in a press briefing, has said the negotiation could not proceed as planned, as the US team has not only demanded a significant increase in burden for South Korea, but also added a new category. He has added: “We couldn’t conduct the talks as planned as the US team left the venue. We maintain our current stance that the cost sharing between the US and South Korea needs to be decided based on the Special Measures Agreement frame in which we have agreed for the past 28 years.”

James DeHart, chief negotiator for the US, has said that the US delegation has come “with open minds, and even prepared to adjust stance as needed in order to move towards a mutually acceptable agreement,” but that the South Korean team’s proposals were not responsive to US’s “fair and equitable burden-sharing.” He has said: “We cut short our participation in the talks in order to give the South Korean side some time to reconsider and I hope to put forward new proposals that would enable both sides to work towards a mutually acceptable agreement in the spirit of our great alliance.”

It has been Trump, who about two years ago, initiated the Korean Peninsula peace talks, but Kim’s response at both the summits – one initially in Singapore and another as a follow-up in Hanoi – has not convinced the US President that Kim has been doing “enough” to meet the objectives set for by Trump to lift the international sanctions against North Korea. But now hope for another summit – a third one – between Trump and Kim is bleak since Kim has announced that he is “not interested” in having “useless” meetings with the US.

All along, Trump has been expecting Kim to dismantle in North Korea all the nuclear-related structures and defuse the nuclear arms, disable the missiles and dispose of stockpile of fissile material with a verifiable process for the US inspectors. Trump has also made it a condition to Kim that till he accomplished of it and verification of it by the US inspectors the economic sanctions of the US on North Korea would continue and the US troops would remain on the Peninsula.

But contrary to the expectations of Trump, Kim has been continuing “clandestine” missile testing and building up new nuclear facilities while dismantling old ones as if to convince the US that he has been fulfilling some conditions. According to a report North Korea has already launched 24 missiles this year, each in violation of UN resolutions, to match the country’s previous annual record.

For almost six decades after the de facto end of three-year-long war in 1953 between North Korea and South Korea, when both the countries signed an armistice, North Korea became an autocrat country while the democratic South Korea continued to enjoy the support of the US with its troops stationed in the Korean Peninsula.

As North Korea, with the presence of the US troops, in the Peninsula, has become insecure and started pursuing nuclear and missile programs aimed at the US and South Korea as its targets. Consequently, the US, with the support of the United Nations, imposed economic sanctions to tame North Korea.

A year ago, Trump, with his initiative, looked as if he was a Nobel Peace Prize “hopeful.” There were vain attempts in the past by former US Presidents like Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama to meet the North Korean leaders to defuse the nuclear stand-off.

But, now for the present, it looks the Korean peace effort would remain stalled with Trump’s own doing of trying to abnormally hike the sharing with Seoul of the cost for maintaining US troops on the Peninsula. Definitely it would be to the displeasure of South Korea and its neighboring countries, including Japan.

– Contributed by Mr. J.V. Laskshmana Rao, a former National News Coordinator of Express News Service, New Delhi, and former Chief Editor of US-based India Tribune. He frequently travels between India and the US.

Picture Credits: AP /

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